Repealing chivalrous laws

318px-John_Everett_Millais_The_Black_BrunswickerThe Oklahoma state legislature, supposedly a conservative lot, has repealed the criminal seduction law, which forbade seducing a virgin by promising to marry her.  Also repealed was a law  forbidding slandering a woman’s virtue.

The state senator who pushed these repeals, a woman, thought the laws were funny.  She also said they were “obsolete, antiquated, inappropriate for our modern society.”

The Daily Oklahoman, supposedly a conservative newspaper, also thought these laws, designed to protect women, were funny.  But when the reporter, in the spirit of fun, quoted advocates of the law from 100 years ago, those gentlemen came across as noble and chivalrous in their zealous concern for wronged women.

I’m not saying we should or should not have such laws.  But the notion that chronology determines whether or not an idea is right or wrong or a law is appropriate or not is surely fallacious.  Yes, women now must be treated just like men, and the Victorian exaltation of womanhood is now considered sexist.  But women are still exploited sexually, and the problem of slandering a woman’s reputation has become even worse in the age of social media.  At any rate, mocking those chivalrous laws designed to protect women just shows the coarsening of our age.

Painting:  “The Black Brunswicker,” by John Everett Millais (1860), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=564102

From Nolan Clay, Oklahoma repeals antiquated seduction, slander laws | News OK:

For more than a century, seducing a virgin by promising to marry her has been illegal in Oklahoma.

So has been slandering a woman’s virtue.

Those old laws will be coming off the books this fall.

Gov. Mary Fallin on Monday signed Senate Bill 286 repealing laws against seducing an unmarried female and imputing unchastity to females. The changes go into effect Nov. 1.

Sen. AJ Griffin, R-Guthrie, was the author of the legislation, getting it passed after three years of trying.

Griffin said she came across the seduction and slander crimes while trying to educate herself on the law.

“I peruse the criminal code quite a bit, just trying to learn primarily, and then ran across those … and, of course, initially laughed,” she said.

She described the seduction and slander crimes as “obsolete, antiquated, inappropriate for our modern society.”. . .

The main seduction law being repealed makes it a felony for any person to seduce and have “illicit connection with an unmarried female of previous chaste character” under promise of marriage. That law first went on the books in 1910.

The maximum punishment is five years in prison and a $1,000 fine.

No one has gone to prison for a seduction offense in decades, Cleveland said. Early in statehood, though, seducers did go to prison, records show. The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals condemned the crime as a black and deadly treachery similar to Judas’ betrayal of Jesus.

In language used in more than one opinion, the Court of Criminal Appeals wrote: “Under the Mosaic law, the penalty of death was inflicted for this offense. The seducer was taken beyond the gates of the city and stoned to death. If this was the law now, there would not be so much impurity in our country.

“The courts and juries of this state cannot be too vigilant in protecting the innocent girls of our country against the wiles and machinations of such incarnate fiends in human form.”

[Keep reading. . .]

About Gene Veith

I am a retired English professor and college administrator. I have written over 20 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.